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rkrispies
05-30-2007, 07:07 AM
I am curious about the background of my fellow medical reenactors. Personally I am a professional chemist, and have been trained as such. So I take a particular point of view on many things, especially the apothecary. Too many times I see people write things or say things that I can tell in a second are not correct. Is there a general lack of background knowledge apart from medical sciences like surgery? Or is it something else? As a particular example (and not to single out individuals), I recently read about using chloroform diluted with water as a treatment for something (cannot remember what). The little chemist in the back of my head says "Wait a second, chloroform and water do not mix!" Just wanted to get some thoughts on this. Maybe I am just being too much of a science snob!

NoahBriggs
05-30-2007, 08:06 AM
You read that "Chloroform was used to treat sore feet" or something to that effect, by Tim Kindred, in the "What do you carry into the field?" thread.

I have no formal chemistry training. (High school biology, Historic geology in college.) Yet, once I read the original sources a couple of times I had a general idea of measurements, how some substances reacted to others and the like. I felt comfortable discussing them with the public. The public do not get into the nitty gritty of the chemistry part.

Guess that's the price you pay for bein a geek. ;)

It's interesting to note that just by all my primary source reading I may very well have the same educational level as a physician with the two years of med school training. The Art and Science of Surgery, 2900 Prescriptions, Edward Parrish on pharmacy. This does not include the dozens or so I have saved from Google books on dentistry, disease, OB-GYN, and the like.

Those in modern medicine are often forced to set aside their modern prejudices and to "unlearn what you have learned" in order to explain the treatments of yesteryear. Of course, if all you do is the museum set-up to talk with visitors, then you can compare and contrast all you want. On the other hand, if you are doing first-person, then modern medicine will have to take a back seat.

Poorly worded, I am sorry. Hope you get the gist of where I am going with the topic.

rkrispies
05-30-2007, 08:54 AM
Noah,

Unforuntately yes, my name is Chris and I am a geek.
I find that knowing a bit more about some of the stuff we use actually helps me in getting closer to the way things may have been back then. I definitely know there is a certain amount of revulsion when I tell people I'm a chemist, but I was curious about where others in this field stand with their background.

I've also seen several times that ether causes chemical burns. Do you have the reference for this? I've used it several times and can honestly report not being burned, even when I have gotten it on me.

Thanks!

NoahBriggs
05-30-2007, 09:23 AM
My "reference" regrettably is from my old surgeon, who is a podiatrist in real life. In our hospital demos I was encouraged to place a wet cloth over the patient's eyes and slather some simple cerate on the face to prevent "chemical burns" from anesthetic. I cannot remember now if it was ether or chloroform. Probably chloroform. (The "cloro" part niggles me, as chlorine is pretty corrosive under the right circumstances.)

Frankly, I think the medical hobby could use a science overhaul. I hate to say it, but I think there is alo misinformation passed around regarding the abilities of chemical mixtures/medications. Now if I were portraying a period correct physician or apothecary then that would be fine. But in real life? Uh,uh.

hanktrent
05-30-2007, 09:32 AM
I am curious about the background of my fellow medical reenactors.

I don't do a medical impression as a regular thing, but have done it. My modern science/medical/pharmacy/chemistry background is zero. Like most impressions, it's all about illusion, and the illusion is more difficult to sustain, the more knowledge the audience believes it has. The "audience" of course being fellow reenactors, the public, etc.


I recently read about using chloroform diluted with water as a treatment for something (cannot remember what). The little chemist in the back of my head says "Wait a second, chloroform and water do not mix!" Just wanted to get some thoughts on this.

That was Tim Kindred in post #7 here: http://www.cwreenactors.com/forum/showthread.php?t=4409

Later in the century, aqua chloroformi showed up more regularly in U.S. medical texts, but I'm not seeing it as much in the 1860s and prior.

However, from the 1851 U.S. Dispensatory: "As a wash, injection, and gargle, Mr. Tuson prepared it [chloroform], diluted with water in the proportion of one or two drachms to the pint; but, as an application to the sound skin, it is generally used undiluted, by means of lint or soft rags, covered with oiled silk to prevent evaporation."

The 1859 U.S. Dispensatory says: "It [Chloroform] allays pain, corrects putrescent odors, and hastens the sloughing process; a fluidrachm or two of Chloroform added to a pint of water, will answer for these purposes.--Tuson."

For internal use, there are period prescriptions mixing it with water. For example, this one for "desperate cases of Delirium Tremens," in Beasley's 1857 Book of Prescriptions:

Rx Chloroformi, f[drachm]j.
Aquae, f[drachm]iiss.
Fiat haustus.

Robley Dunglisson does include "Aqua chloroformi," or "Chloroform water" in his New Remedies, 1856:

Rx Chloroform. gtt. xx
Aq. destillat. f[ounce]iij. M.

For a good discussion on the development, appearance, and so forth, of Chloroform Water, here's an 1886 translation from a French article:

http://books.google.com/books?id=3LerRZoRT68C&pg=PA183&lpg=PA183&dq=%22aqua+chloroformi%22&source=web&ots=23lRP2SG4S&sig=rQfjhBPanprCG598SSEk5KTzTak&output=html

The author describes it as a saturated solution containing a little less than 1 percent chloroform. That would fit with Tuson's suggestion in the Dispensatory of one or two drachms of chloroform per pint of water. One can only assume that in stronger preparations, such as the draught above for delirium tremons, the chloroform was not actually dissolved in the water.

Not sure if you wanted thoughts on background knowledge of medical reenactors, or on chloroform mixed with water, but there are my thoughts on both. :)

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

hanktrent
05-30-2007, 09:55 AM
I've also seen several times that ether causes chemical burns. Do you have the reference for this? I've used it several times and can honestly report not being burned, even when I have gotten it on me.

Since I've got the 1851 Dispensatory out here (some of the above post was from online books, some from hard copy), it does say this:

"When externally applied it [aether] may act either as a stimulant or refrigerant. If its evaporation be repressed, it operates as a powerful rubefacient, and may even vesicate; but, when this is allowed to take place freely, it is refrigerant in consequence of the cold which it produces." (emphasis added)

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Marc
05-30-2007, 09:58 AM
Mainly I do the smaller living history set up and if needed have a small medical setup. I have learned through the years by reading and other more knowledgable medical historians. I have no formal science training except what I learned in high school and college. I try and just present the basics and show that the mid 19th century physician/surgeon did the best they could with the knowledge at hand. Hopefully, it will spark an interest for them to do further reading into the history of medicine.

Hank, remember the illusion we had at Burkettsville a few years back and the 24 hour hospital. I think the spectators will always remember the presentation and how you as the local civilian doctor convinced me not to amputate a limb, but save it using some new method you had just read about.

mmartin4600
05-30-2007, 10:52 AM
I have a background in emergency medicine, First Responder, EMT-B, but I am mostly self-taught. My saving grace is I have an excellent mentor. He is a PA and very knowledgeable about medicine during the era. I have learned a lot from just listening and watching him. In fact, when we do living history, He takes on a teaching role with me as the newly arrived Asst. Surgeon. Not only do I learn, but so does the crowd.

rkrispies
05-30-2007, 01:49 PM
Thanks everyone for posting. I really figured medical reenactors would generally follow the public -- i.e. little science background.

Noah- Sorry to once again get on geeky pulpit here. Chlorine is very caustic. Chloroform is very stable. I think you can skip the facial protection without sacrificing anything safety-wise (if you were actually using chloroform). Ether is likely the same, although it's tough to tell from the toxicology literature out there right now.

Hank- Thanks for the references. In a general sense, chloroform is essentially not mixible with water. Double checking the literature, however: at 68 F, you can get about 0.75 fluid drachms into a pint of water (8.22g/kg). Solubility drops as you get hotter. Any more than that, and you will end up with two layers. Tuson is pretty close to right on.

Thanks again for your input. Unforunately, it's back to working on that pesky thesis of mine . . .

TimKindred
05-30-2007, 02:56 PM
Chris,

My own knowlesge comes from several sources. The prime interest came from my father, who was a Hospital Corpsman during WWII. At a young age, i discovered his field kit and started asking questions about it. Over the years, I learned about his training and how the Navy went about dealing with casualties and trauma. the types of equipment he found useful and why, etc. Interesting stuff for a young man.

Next, I began a love affair with the ACW period during the centennial. It lasts to this day. I began to compare my father's notes and lectures with what i read from period accounts and manuals.

Lastly, I have a background in Oceanography which, while not a pure science such as chenistry, has it's applicant points.

This is all mixed together and blended with conversations with others in the field, questions I put to my own physician(s) and used to help me understand what the period accounts I read are really talking about.

Respects,

celtfiddler
05-31-2007, 04:43 PM
Mine is limited to meeting the requirements for my degree in Business Adm. Namely, biology (2 semesters), oceanography, and physical geography. Chemistry wise--last time I had chemistry class was high school.

The rest comes from being the daughter of 2 registered nurses and a science and history geek.

"Doc" Nelson
05-31-2007, 09:48 PM
My "medical and scientific experience" is as follows:

18 years as a Firefighter with Emergency Medical experience. I have also worked in an ER at 1 of only 2 "Level III Trauma Centers" in the State of Virginia. As far as my "science background" . . well, it's mostly Fire Science (understanding fire's behavior and how it reacts in certain situations, physical conditions and such). I am currently undergoing Arson Investigation training (I'm almost finished with my degree through a local college and, have completed 2 State Arson schools). No, it doesn't have much to do with medical "stuff". But, we are trained in the understanding of how chemicals act or react under certain "conditions" or situations.

As far as how I got into the medical aspect of the hobby:

I first got into the hobby in November of 1989. My impression had been that of a Confederate Infantryman . . up until the first part of 2006. When I found out that my GGG Grandfather was a Surgeon during the War. Well, naturally I became interested in his service and, wanted to understand what he may have faced.

bill watson
06-01-2007, 04:18 AM
I think what's being explained is that we all have to overcome our tendency to want to "correct" the misconceptions upon which the historical figures we portray based their actions, and simply accept that sometimes they did things we now know are wrong. And sometimes they got a good result anyway. Explaining the differential is great for living history, but has to be firmly squelched in first person scenarios.

Where you have to draw the line is at implementing period practices you know will cause real harm. Admonishing men not to drink much water on the march is in several military books and was at least the official advice (although it seems like finding water was a major concern on every big campaign). Obviously we're not going there; we make sure guys drink enough to stay hydrated.

hanktrent
06-01-2007, 07:30 AM
Where you have to draw the line is at implementing period practices you know will cause real harm. Admonishing men not to drink much water on the march is in several military books and was at least the official advice (although it seems like finding water was a major concern on every big campaign). Obviously we're not going there; we make sure guys drink enough to stay hydrated.

Why not go there? "Admonishing" itself causes no harm, as long as you don't interfere with their actual drinking. Regular rest breaks beside a water source, and pauses to let men drink, combined with period health advice in between, does nothing negative for a modern person's health.

I find it frustrating to go to events and be treated as if I'm not capable of taking care of myself, when what I'm really there for is to be treated like a period person who is nonetheless capable of taking care of himself in the 21st century.

Maybe there just aren't enough people like me to ever hold more than a two or three person event like that, but if so, it's a shame.

Had a great experience at the canal walk with Charles Heath recently. I was drinking way more water than him, though both of us were drinking what we needed for health. I just get fewer "miles per gallon" than most people.

After he'd waited for me to fill up my bottle (canteen) yet again, I said I knew it was bad for me to drink so much water, but it was just a habit, and I ought to train myself to drink less, but I just got so thirsty I couldn't help it. He agreed.

And several times, I'd want to stop and get some water when he still had a full canteen, and he'd discourage me. If I knew I needed more and a dry spell might be coming up, I'd just say, no, this is a good clear place, I'm going to stop here.

Funny though how when my bottle broke and I needed to get a new one, causing me two or three hours without water, he offered to share plenty of water from his canteen if I needed it. ;) Since it was a nice cool morning, I only took a small cupful, but it was clear he wasn't going to let my modern self get in any danger of dehydration.

But it was great for a change to feel like who I would have been in the 19th century--the annoying guy who kept stopping for water, who didn't have enough self control or common sense not to gulp down cold creek water on a hot day.

Hank Trent
hanktrent@voyager.net

Jas. Cox
06-05-2007, 08:28 PM
That's all the science I need. Yes, I am joshing.

As a lad I had a chemistry set. I took advanced sciences in high school. Then I just stopped. I tested out of the little that was required for a BS in Communications. I still remember Aluminum AL 13 ... Boron B 6? I know not to mix bleach and ammonia. I know once one is thirsty one is already dehydrated. I know that drinking too much water can be bad, but that takes a lot of water and is based on body weight. I know this and that. I know that eye witness accounts are the worst kind of evidence of an event. "I know nothing except the fact of my ignorance."

But I am willing to listen and learn.

1863doc
06-07-2007, 08:25 AM
Chris;

I was a paramedic/firefighter for 23 years. I got into reenacting in 1975 and saw many injuries during the 70's with out proper medical care available. When I was able to I changed to medical with the idea of being there in case someone got hurt I could use my real skills. In the 70's there was almost nothing in the way of medical reenactors....so to my surprise in 1999 when I changed to medical I was at the bottom of a now long list of reenactors. The Society of Civil War Surgeons at the time had over 400 members; a great number which were and are reenactors.

1863doc